30 October 2013

Another maple pecan recipe?  Yep! Tis the season!  Maple and pecans go so well together, especially in savory dishes.  I always make my husband a special breakfast for his birthday each year.  He had always wanted to try scotch eggs so I thought it was about time I made them for him.  Scotch eggs are hard-boiled eggs covered in sausage; traditionally coated in breadcrumbs.  I found a recipe for scotch eggs with a maple walnut coating instead of the breadcrumbs, and I knew my husband would absolutely love that.  He has quite the sweet tooth.  I got the recipe from Foodista and changed it just slightly.  Here's my version.

Maple Pecan Scotch Eggs

Plastic wrap is the key to making symmetrical, well-rounded scotch eggs. The sausage easily molds around the egg without sticking to your hands in the process.

6 eggs
24 oz. ground pork sausage
¼ cup pure maple syrup, divided
¼ cup chopped pecans

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and set timer for 12 minutes.  When the timer goes off, remove eggs and run them under cold water for several minutes until they cool down.  Peel.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Using your hands, combine the pork and 2 tbsp maple syrup. Once brought together, divide into six even portions.  Lay a sheet of plastic wrap down on your work surface. Spread one portion of the sausage out into a circle in the center of the plastic wrap and place your hard-boiled egg on the sausage patty.  Lifting up from under the plastic wrap, gently mold the sausage around the egg and seal completely.  Place each egg onto a baking sheet.  Once they are all rolled up, brush with remaining maple syrup and sprinkle with the chopped pecans.  

Bake for 40-45 minutes. When done, the outside should be a deep brown and the sausage nicely cooked through without being overcooked.  Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Aren't they gorgeous?  They turned out perfectly.  The eggs were perfectly cooked, the sausage was nicely browned, the maple syrup added just a touch of sweetness, and the pecans were wonderfully toasted.

The original recipe called for walnuts, but we like pecans better so I used those.  It also called for mixing some of the pecans in with the sausage, but I didn't do that.  I just put them on top.

 The plastic wrap method worked out perfectly.  Here are a few pics of the process.

 Place a blob of the sausage on the plastic wrap.  

 Nestle a hard-boiled egg onto it.

 Then use the plastic wrap to squish the sausage all around the egg.

 The plastic wrap makes it easy to make sure the sausage covers the egg evenly.


 I used a stoneware baking sheet.  (If you don't have one, get one!)

Aren't they just beautiful?  I was so impressed with how perfectly they turned out, considering how incredibly easy they were to make.  My husband absolutely loved them.  

So if you want to make a special breakfast treat for someone, try these out.  

21 October 2013

It's Monday, so I should be sharing a great meatless dish with you, but I'm not.  I just couldn't sit on this amazing salmon recipe any longer.  I have made it twice in the last month (which is a lot for me!), and I have decided that it's my absolute new favorite salmon recipe.  The salmon is marinated in maple syrup and baked with a maple and pecan glaze.  I saw a recipe for Honey and Pecan Glazed Salmon at The Girl Who Ate Everything, and thought it sounded great.  But since I was in a fall food state of mind, I decided to try it with maple syrup instead of honey.  Here's my version.

Maple Pecan Salmon

¼ cup maple syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 (4 oz.) salmon fillets
⅓ cup pecans, chopped

Combine maple syrup and soy sauce in a small bowl and pour into a Ziploc bag.  Add salmon fillets and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 425°.  

Remove salmon from the bag and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Pour half of the marinade over the salmon and top with pecans.  Drizzle the remaining marinade on top of the pecans.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily.  

Remove from oven and spoon some of the cooking liquid over the top of the salmon.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce.

Oh man, this salmon is amazing.  The sweetness of the maple syrup goes so well with the salmon, but the soy sauce keeps it a plenty savory too.  And I just love the crunch of the pecans on top.

I think I could eat this salmon everyday.  Which is saying a lot for me.  My husband feels the same way and my kids liked it too.  You really must try this recipe.  Usually I only make maple-y things in the fall, but I already know that I will be making this one year-round.

19 October 2013

It's time again for The Salad Bar, hosted by Wendy of The Weekend Gourmet.  

This month's theme was Mexican salads.  I kind of struggled with this because the only Mexican salad I could think of was the usual taco salad.  But I wanted to do something more interesting than that.  I even searched Pinterest and wasn't finding anything inspiring.  Then one day I was cleaning out some of my paperwork and I found a list of recipes that I had wanted to pin from an old Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.  One of them was Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Salad.  It was perfect!  Lettuce, onion, avocado, and cilantro topped with taco seasoned chicken, dressed with a spicy sweet chipotle dressing, and finished off with crunchy tortilla strips.  I made a few changes, of course, so here's my adaptation.

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Salad

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
Taco seasoning
⅓ cup + 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
Green leaf lettuce, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Crunchy tortilla strips

Season the chicken with the taco seasoning. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook through, about 5 minutes, flipping once. Remove from heat and slice into thin strips.  Set aside.

In a small container with a lid, combine the chipotle in adobo, vinegar, brown sugar, and remaining ⅓ cup olive oil. Put the lid on the container and shake to emulsify the dressing.

In a large bowl, place the lettuce and onion. Add the avocado and tomatoes, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Pour on the dressing and toss. To serve, top the salad with the chicken.

 Makes 4 servings.

This salad is so good!  Rachael used a combination of cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, and pepper on the chicken, but I simplified things by using my own taco seasoning.  I always have it ready to go in my spice cabinet, so it was just easier.  The other major thing I changed was that the dressing was supposed to be made in the skillet as a warm dressing.  I didn't feel that was necessary.  It was just great at room temperature.  

I cheated and didn't actually mince the chipotle for my dressing.  I just used about a tbsp of the adobo sauce.  The adobo sauce is super flavorful and has some heat to it and lots of the chipotle flavor.  I made this salad for my family, so I didn't want it to be too spicy for my little ones.  And my husband and I are kind of wimps when it comes to spice anyway.  The one tbsp of adobo sauce was perfect for us, but if you like things hot, then mince up some of the chipotle pepper.  It also called for 1 tbsp of brown sugar, but that was a little bit sweet for me.  So next time I will just do 2 tsp.

If you have never used tortilla strips before, they come in bags just like croutons, either in the produce section or the salad dressing aisle.  They have different flavors, but since there was already a lot of flavor going on here, I just got the plain ones.  I didn't want the flavors clashing.

This salad was a big hit with my family.  They all loved it.  It's a great healthier alternative to taco night.

Be sure to check out all the other great Mexican salads below!

17 October 2013

It's reveal day for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's ingredients were cake and frosting.  Hard to go wrong there!  I didn't have to give it too much thought this month, because I had already made and photographed a recipe with cake and frosting, but hadn't shared it yet.  Well, today is the perfect day to share it!

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a fan of poke cakes.  There's the original Jell-O poke cake that is a classic, and I have also posted recipes for Patriotic Poke Cake, Orange Creamsicle Poke Cake, Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake, and just last week Caramel Apple Poke Cake.  And today I've got another one for you!  (I may be slightly obsessed.)  I just love poke cakes because cake can be so boring.  With a poke cake, you get the convenience of cake, but with some super yummy twists to it.  This one is definitely my favorite out of all the poke cakes I've made so far.  It's a Taste of Home recipe that I modified slightly to make even better.  Here's my version.

Toffee Poke Cake

1 (18 oz.) box chocolate cake mix 
Eggs, oil, and water called for on cake mix box
1 jar or bottle (12-17 oz.) butterscotch ice cream topping
½ tub (12 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed
½ cup cream cheese frosting
½ cup Heath Bit O Brickle toffee chips

Prepare and bake cake according to package directions, using a greased 13x9” baking pan. Remove from oven.  

Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in cake. Pour the butterscotch topping into holes and all over the top of the cake.  Refrigerate cake.  

Combine Cool Whip and cream cheese frosting in a medium bowl.  Spread over top of cake and sprinkle with toffee bits.  Refrigerate until serving.

Makes 15-18 servings.

So here's what's going on with this cake.  It's a chocolate cake (I use a boxed mix but you could make your own from scratch), poke holes in it and fill those holes with butterscotch syrup.  I don't know about you, but I'm already hooked!  Then you mix together some Cool Whip and cream cheese frosting.  Spread it over the top and sprinkle with toffee bits.  Mmm!

It looks like it's topped with chopped peanuts, but those are toffee bits.

The frosting was my addition.  I thought the topping needed a little something.  The cream cheese frosting adds a lovely richness to it that makes it just divine.  The original recipe called for chopped Heath bars on top, but the prepackaged toffee bits are not only so much easier (no chopping), but I like how it's just the toffee, not the chocolate.  There's plenty of chocolate in the cake.  It provides a nice contrast of flavors.

I have made this cake probably three times in the last six months or so and it's always a hit.  This is definitely one of my go-to desserts for any occasion.

Be sure to check out all the other great cake and frosting recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with orange and cardamom. Yum!

09 October 2013

Like it or not, we are firmly in fall now.  Even though it has been a warm fall here in Wisconsin so far, I am enjoying my favorite part of fall: fall foods.  I'm all about the apples, maple, pecans, squash, pumpkin, etc. lately.  Today I am sharing with you a great fall dessert.  This is another awesome poke cake recipe.  I love poke cakes!  Let's be honest, cake can be pretty boring.  But poke some holes in it and fill it with yummy stuff, and it's a whole different story!  I saw this at What's Cooking, Love? and just had to try it.  I made a few modifications; here's my version.

Caramel Apple Poke Cake

1 (18 oz.) box spice cake mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for on cake mix box
1½ cups apple pie filling
¾ cup caramel ice cream topping, divided
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip
½ tsp cinnamon

Prepare the cake according to the directions on the box.  Remove from oven and use a wooden spoon to poke holes evenly throughout the cake.

Chop up the apples contained in the apple pie filling into smaller pieces. Then combine the apple pie filling and ½ cup of the caramel ice cream topping in a medium sized bowl. Spread the caramel apple topping evenly on top of the cake, trying to get some in the holes.  Let cake cool.

For the topping, mix the remaining ¼ cup caramel ice cream topping into the Cool Whip container. Mix together until combined then spread it on top of the cake. Then sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 24 servings.

The original recipe called for a white cake mix, and you could certainly use that if you can't find the spice cake mix, but the spice cake adds a lot of character to this cake.  The brown color is prettier, I think, and of course the spices in it go really well with apples and caramel.  The other thing I changed was to omit a layer of sweetened condensed milk.  I'm sure that makes it even tastier, but it's really not necessary.

This cake is so yummy!  The spice cake, and the apples, and the caramel are all so tasty together.  The cake is very moist. I may or may not have eaten some of the leftover pieces with some additional caramel drizzle on top. ;)

So if you're looking for a great cake to take to a fall get-together, this is the one!  If you are a fan of poke cakes, lucky you because I have another one to share with you next week!  (I may be a little obsessed!)

Here are the other poke cakes I have shared with you in the past:

Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake
Orange Creamsicle Poke Cake
Patriotic Poke Cake

06 October 2013

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned the blog An Opera Singer in the Kitchen.  I was really happy to get this assignment as I have been reading Noelle's blog for a long time now.  She and I have a few things in common.  When I first discovered her blog, she and I both lived in Michigan, on the west side.  She lived in Holland, I believe, and I lived near Grand Rapids.  We have both since moved to different states.  Also, Noelle and I are both mommies to two little girls.  She often posts pics of their family activities and her little girls are just adorable.  

I knew without even looking at Noelle's blog that I wanted to a meatless dish.  Noelle has a great variety of recipes on her blog, but I knew she had a great collection of vegetarian dishes and while I am not vegetarian, I do observe a meatless day once a week or so.  I am always looking for new, creative meatless dishes that my family will love.  I decided to try her Mexican Sopes.  Even though I love cooking Mexican food and have eaten at many different Mexican restaurants, I have to admit that I had never even heard of sopes.  In case you haven't either, they are miniature fried corn-dough bowls filled with beans and sauce and topped with cheese. They are delightful. 

Mexican Sopes

2 cups instant corn mix (Masa preparada)
1½ cups water
1 tsp salt
Canola oil
2 cups shredded cabbage 
½ cup red onion, diced
½ tsp salt
½ lime, juiced
2 tomatoes, diced 
¾ cup Queso Fresco
1 can refried beans
Salsa of your choice

Preheat oven to 350°.

First prepare the masa by mixing the instant corn mix, salt, and water in a mixing bowl. Let the dough sit for 5 minutes. Grab some dough and roll it until golf ball size. Press the dough on a mat or on your hand until flattened.  They should be thicker than a tortilla.

Heat a pan on med-high with ¼” inch of oil. Fry each dough patty about 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Keep the corn patties warm by placing them on a baking sheet in the warm oven.

Warm the beans in the same pan after frying the patties and set aside.  In a small bowl, mix the cabbage, ½ tsp salt, red onion, and lime juice.

To assemble the sopes. Take one corn patty and spread it with 1 tbsp beans. Sprinkle on 1 tbsp queso fresco and then add the tomatoes. Then top with the cabbage salad.

Makes 4 servings.

I actually had everything I needed for this recipe except for the queso fresco.  I tried three grocery stores before I finally found it at the fourth. (Meijer, I miss you! Start work on that Kenosha store, stat!)  I had masa because I use it to make my Sweet Corn Tomalito.  And I'm glad to have another recipe to make with it because it always comes in a huge bag and I can never use it up fast enough.

Here is one of the little corn patties.  I don't ever fry things and it's because I'm really bad at it.  The first four of these turned out perfectly.  Then I got distracted with assembling those and let the other six burn.  Oops!  

I had to add a little more water than what Noelle's recipe called for to get the dough to the right consistency.  And I found them a little on the salty side, so next time I will cut back on that.  The only other thing I changed was due to my own inattentiveness.  When I was making my grocery list, my eyes skipped right over the word "refried" in the ingredients list and thought it called for regular whole beans.  It wasn't until I started assembling the sopes and the beans were rolling all over that I realized the recipe called for refried beans.  Duh!  That was the one thing my husband mentioned when trying them.  "Next time, I think refried beans would work better."  Yep!

This was my first time using queso fresco and we all loved it.

I served these with salsa and sour cream, but you could do guacamole or any other topping you like.

These were a big hit with my family.  Thanks so much for adding a great new meatless main to our rotation, Noelle!

03 October 2013

It's time for another installment of my newest monthly challenge, Fill the Cookie Jar.

This month's theme was Halloween cookies.  I am really not big on Halloween.  Most definitely my least favorite holiday.  So it took me a while to decide what kind of cookies to make.  There are tons of ideas out there, but I knew that I did not want to do severed fingers, eyeballs, spiders, or anything gross.  Just not my style.  So then I got to thinking about doing something with Halloween colors and I came across some chocolate cake mix cookies made with Reese's Pieces on It's Always Autumn.  The dark chocolate cookies looked almost black and the Reese's Pieces were great fall colors.  So I made those, using only the orange Reese's Pieces for the black and orange Halloween look.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix Cookies

1 (16.5 oz.) box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
½ cup butter, melted
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 tbsp water (if necessary)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Reese’s Pieces

Preheat oven to 365°. 

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, cocoa powder, and eggs.  If mixture is too dry,  add the water.  Mix until thoroughly combined, then stir in the chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces.

Roll rounded tablespoons of the dough into balls and place onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to cooling tray or paper towels.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

I totally forgot how much I love cake mix cookies!  I made them once before (using strawberry cake mix) and I love how easy they are to make.  You don't need to dirty up fifteen different measuring cups and multiple mixing bowls.  One bowl, one spatula, and one (or two) measuring cups is all you need.  This was a great project for my two little kitchen helpers to assist with.

Lena, my five-year-old.

 And Eva, my three-year-old.

These are the chocolatiest cookies you will ever eat!  Autumn swears by the Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix, but I saw the Dark Chocolate Fudge and I just couldn't resist.  The fudginess ensures that the cookies don't turn out too cakey.  Nice and chewy an fudgy instead.  Add to that cocoa powder and some chocolate chips and it is a serious chocolate explosion!  

I only had two problems: one was that I didn't have regular chocolate chips so I used minis instead.  That would have been okay except that I poured the still-hot melted butter right on top of them, so most of them just melted into the batter.  So that's why I suggest mixing in the egg and butter, then stirring in the chips.  The other problem I had was that the dough was so thick I couldn't get all of the cake mix moistened.  So I added 2 tbsp of canola oil, but realized later that I should have just used water.  

The only other thing I did differently was to roll the dough into balls instead of just dropping tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.  I didn't figure this out until the very end, though, so only a few of them benefited from this.  The dough was kind of crumbly, so rolling them into balls was just easier.  And the ones that I rolled into balls turned out much prettier than the others.  I think they held together after baking better too.

I wanted all orange Reese's Pieces, so I bought a 15 oz. bag and picked them all out.  The orange ones added up to exactly 1 cup.  Perfect!  You could use M&Ms, but there is already so much chocolate going on, that the little bits of peanut butter are a nice touch.  Another good option would be white chocolate chips.

While the orange Reese's Pieces make these perfect for Halloween, they would be perfect for any holiday or just any day of the year!  This is definitely going to be my go-to chocolate cookie recipe from now on.  

The next time you need to make cookies, give these a try.  They are so easy and whoever you are making them for will love you forever!

Check out all the other great Halloween cookies below and come back next month to see what kind of Thanksgiving cookie I come up with.

01 October 2013

People seemed to like the Turkey Apple Cheddar Panini I posted the other day, so I thought I would share another savory apple application with you today.  Similar idea: poultry, apples, and cheddar cheese with some kind of bread element.  These are savory muffins.  They are perfect for using up leftover shredded or cubed chicken breast and they make a very tasty fall dinner.  I had wanted to make them ever since seeing them on Bcmom's Kitchen during our SRC reveal in March. Finally got around to it last week and I'm glad I did because they were terrific.  Here's my slight adaptation.

Chicken Apple Cheddar Muffins

2 eggs
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1½ cups chicken, diced or shredded
1 cup apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 16 muffin cups with baking spray.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the oil and milk.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and smoked paprika.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until barely combined.  Fold in the chicken, apple, and ½ cup of the cheddar cheese.  Fill muffin tins with the batter and top each with remaining cheddar.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Anna put broccoli in hers, but I decided to leave that out and do veggies on the side instead.  I also increased the smoked paprika a bit because I am slightly obsessed. :)

These muffins are so good!  The flavors all combine to create a masterpiece.  I happened to use chicken that had been cooked in a mesquite marinade, which gave it a slightly smoky element that went well with the smoked paprika.  But any kind of chicken would be good in here.  The apple isn't super prominent; in fact, that's the one thing my husband said about it; he thought there could have been more apple.  But he has a colossal sweet tooth.  I thought they were just perfect.  

I actually got 12 regular muffins and 2 jumbos out of this recipe.  I was too lazy to go down to the basement for one of my other regular muffin tins, and used the jumbo instead.  So I am guessing when I say it makes 16 regular muffins.  The one in the pics above is a jumbo.

Come back on Thursday for a great Halloween cookie recipe!